Working With Metal Laminates


From original questioner:

We recently started a job using quite a bit of Chemetal's Magnetic gloss white Dry-Erase laminate and had a horrible experience attempting to trim the edges. After searching the web (and their tech manual) I was ready to admit defeat and told my customer (another cabinet shop) that I could not machine the laminate, but they "encouraged" me to try. So for others that may be searching for a solution in the future, I thought I'd post my experiences and how I managed to make it work.

The project: 78 full size hollow core doors regular PLAM on the back and magnet dry-erase laminate on the front.

1) Do not try to edgeband with it. It will take way too long and while I did not try it, I imagine it would destroy the edgebanders cutters on the first pass. Use a standard gloss PLAM (frosty white worked in my case).

2) Use a downcut spiral trimmer bit with bearings on the end. The instructions lead you to beleive that a carbide tipped flush trim bit will work but it will start to wear a groove in the carbide edge within feet.

If you edgeband first which I did, treating these more like a countertop and a cabinet door - use TWO layers of blue painters tape to protect the PLAM edge (not standard tan which seems to get caught in the cutter and wrap around the bit).

3) Leave only 1/8" or less overhang, or if not practicle as in my case because of the size of the pieces (to easy to have a small misalignment of the panel leave you short on a edge) leave more that the width of the diamater of the bit. If I left a 1/4" overhang like I usually do and used a 1/4" dia bit, there would be a thin, thread-like piece of metal which would get wrapped around the bit and damage the edge every 6" or so. Even so, until you are familar with the "feel" or routing the edge , check every six inches or so that it is not balling up around the cutter.

4) Use a router with dust collection. Even with this you will have small metal filings everywhere, but it helps alot.

5) Tape a piece of scrap laminate near the edge to run the routerbase over. The metal filings that the dust collection does not suck up will get stuck in the plastic cover sheet and scratch up the routerbase and the laminate.

6) Clean, clean and clean again as you go. After trimming each edge, I brushed the chips away and blew the surface clean - again the metal chips get everywhere.

7) When filing the edges, use that coarse side of the PLAM file to bevel it and to remove the fine edge that the two laysers of tape caused. Angle the edge of the file that is towards you down ever so slightly becasue of you keep it perfectly flat it tends to grab. Use the fine side of the file to bake a pass roughly 30 degrees to the face and then the same to the edge to remove any sharpness.

8) Use a variable speed router set at 50-60% full speed. I use the Festool trim router where 6 is full speed - I had the best results set at 4.

9) Most importantly - figure that it will take you about three times longer to trim and file the edges than when using regular PLAM

Good luck!

From contributor ka

Excellent, Brian!

I'm doing to two panels for a pair of Thermador columns. Customer wants flat black chalkboard, and magnetic.

I had been thinking about laminating sheetmetal to baltic birch, priming/painting the sheetmetal, with flat black post-cat on the edges and back. Hadn't thought of Chemetal. I'll call them for a sample.

I had thought about taking the laminated panel to a guy with a water jet. After reading your post, I'm sure that's what I'm going to do!

I've been thinking I would roll/burnish the edges to take away the sharpness. Concur?

Laminating: Chemetal recommends contact adhesive with a pinch roller. I'm thinking epoxy and renting a buddies 40 ton press overnight. What did you use?

Again, excellent post, Brian. I really appreciate the time you take to lay out our process.